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FAQs on Betta Diseases: Senescence (Old Age)

Related Articles: Anabantoids/Gouramis & Relatives, Betta splendens/Siamese Fighting Fish, Betta Systems, Betta Diseases, Improved (Better?) Products for Bettas!,

Related FAQs: Betta Disease 1, Betta Disease 2, Betta Disease 3, Betta Disease 4, Betta Disease 5, Betta Disease 6, Betta Disease 7, Betta Disease 8, Betta Disease 9, Betta Disease 10, Betta Disease 11, Betta Disease 12, Betta Disease 13, Betta Disease 14, Betta Disease 15, Betta Disease 16, Betta Disease 17, Betta Disease 18, Betta Disease 19, Betta Disease 20, Betta Disease 21, Betta Health 22, Betta Health 23, Betta Health 24, Betta Health 25, Betta Health 26, Betta Health 28, Betta Health 29, Betta Health 30, Betta Health 31,
Betta Disease Causes/Etiologies: Determining/Diagnosing, Environmental (By far the largest cat.), Nutritional, Viral/Cancer, Infectious (Bacterial, Fungal), Parasitic: Ich/White Spot, Velvet; Senescence/Old Age, Cures/Curatives/Treatments,

FAQs on Betta Medicines: Betta Medicines period, Antibiotics/Antibacterials, Anti-Protozoals (Metronidazole, eSHa...), Copper, Formalin, Malachite Green, Anthelminthics, Organophosphates, Salts, All Other Betta Med.s,

Most Bettas are sold at about six months of age. Most only live a couple; three years is quite old... five is ancient!
Like humans, other biota, with age, cumulative genetic errors, Bettas lose vigor, immunity, capacity to resist problems.

New Print and eBook on Amazon

Betta Success
Doing what it takes to keep Bettas healthy long-term

by Robert (Bob) Fenner

Fred is old and what should I do for him?  9//15/07 I read postings on the Betta fish; I didn't see any to answer my question of "Is my fish suffering?" I have had 'Fred' for approximately 4 years; I know I have been lucky to have him, this long. He has such personality and I feed him one nugget at a time, he enjoys being fed like that. He gets so excited when my desk light comes on and starts his tail/fin wagging. Yesterday Fred was swimming on his side, still swimming his excited way, but on his side. <Four years is a pretty good innings for a Betta; these are essentially annuals in the wild, though they can live quite a bit longer in captivity.> This morning he was just lying on this side, but when I turned on my light, he was so excited. I fed him, and he ate one piece at a time, like he always does. I did notice he tried to do one of his flip arounds, with a lot of effort and it looked like it was painful. <Hmm... well, do the usual things: check nitrites and pH, and just generally make sure the filter is working properly and the tank is nice and clean.> Is he suffering? I don't want to 'flush him', but I don't want him to be in pain either. What should I do? He has been a great, easy, fun pet and I know I have had a more than usual life span with him. What would your advice be? <Well, for one thing, never flush a live fish, even one seemingly at death's door. It's a pretty cruel way to kill a sick fish. There are various ways to euthanise a fish should things come to that (search this site for the Euthanasia FAQs). In the meantime, assuming the fish is mobile and feeding, I wouldn't worry too much. But as and when he cannot feed himself, that's the time to consider painlessly destroying him. Cheers, Neale>

Geriatric Jerry? - 08/17/2005 Hi,  my Betta, Jerry, has been with me for nearly 3 years.   <A long time, for a Betta, these days.  And that's even on top of however old he was upon purchase....> He has always eaten well.  I started off with Betta food pellets, which I used for about 2 years.  Recently, he began to go for the pellets and missing them.   <Probably from getting on in age.> After a while he would stop because he doesn't like them soggy.  I then changed his food to freeze dried bloodworms (everyday) hoping that maybe he was bored.  He did ok.  But he still goes food the food and misses it.   <Have you tried frozen bloodworms?  These *might* be easier for him to grab....> I'm not sure it's his mouth or eyes, but if he goes for the food it must mean he sees it, right?   <Maybe, or maybe just doesn't see it very well.  It could just be that he's having trouble maneuvering....  all part of aging, I fear.> I just feel so bad for him.  Also this week I thought I was going to lose him,  he began to lie on his side on the bottom breathing deeply.  This happened in his 10 gallon tank.  So I  changed him back to the fish bowl, which he eventually became himself.   <Ah, good.  Do please test for ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate in the 10g tank!  There may be something amiss that, given time, will affect the younger, more spry Betta, as well.> One more thing, I noticed he was swollen on his right side toward his tail.  Some things that might help you help me: He lived in a 10 gal. w/ another male Betta, but divided for about 3 months.  The food problem began before Tom, the new Betta.  By the way Tom is doing fine, its just Jerry.  I separated them just in case Jerry is contagious.  Please help!  What do you think is wrong with Jerry?   <Just as above....  Unfortunately, as much as I'd like, there's no cure for age.> And how can I help? <You already are....  softer foods, less water flow, perhaps even floating plants for him to be able to rest near the surface will all be helpful to him.> Thank you so very much!!   <Thanks for writing in, and for providing such great care for your fish!  Wishing you well,  -Sabrina>

Aging Betta Dear Robert, <Hi, Cheryl! Bob's out of the country at the moment, so you're stuck with crewmember Sabrina today - hope I can be of service to you!> I was given a Betta in a bowl with the live plant as a gift ( which was popular about five or six years ago).  <Mm, I do recall these. I have always stood firm that, when properly maintained, these can be excellent homes for Betta's - a lot of folks do disagree with that, but I think your fish shows just how great such a setup can be....> I thought that if I was fortunate, I might have the Betta for perhaps 6 months, well we are now on 5-1/2 years! I have had to replace the plant where others may have had to replace the Betta! <Very, very impressive, nowadays. I recall about a decade ago when I lost a Betta that had been with me for over five years, but Betta's now just don't seem to be what they used to be. I would say that three years is about the norm, now, provided that you start with an ultimately healthy Betta, which is also getting hard to come by.... I fear that extensive selective inbreeding has really damaged the genetics and longevity of these animals. Sigh.> Needless to say over the years I have become very attached to my Betta "Sushi". I have fed him only the shrimp pellets all these years, 4 pellets in the morning and 4 pellets in the evening, and have used Arrowhead drinking water all these years, and keeping his bowl clean and the plant healthy. I have always mixed some of his old water with any new water that I introduced to his bowl.  <Though there are things I would have done differently, you're obviously doing something quite right! At this point, I would not change any of your habits - "if it isn't broken, don't fix it", as it were.> I realize now after reading your information, that Sushi is really pushing the lifespan of a Betta!  <Indeed. The friend that gave you this fish either has a good eye for a healthy fish, or a great deal of luck!> He is slowing down a bit and spending more time at the bottom of the bowl, but does swim up to the surface and comes up to be fed.  <Pretty much to be expected, for a geriatric Betta.> This behavior has been happening for about the past three weeks or so. When he does come up to the top he seems strong, but it appears that his back end is going out on him and he has trouble keeping horizontal. He will place himself in the roots of the plants to keep himself horizontal, otherwise his front ends starts to float upward.  <Perhaps a condition with the swim bladder - I have seen many such cases in older Betta's.> I am wondering if there is anything I can do for him in addition to what I am already doing.  <I would urge you to do exactly as you have been doing - again, you're obviously doing something right!> Do you think his current behavior is a part of the aging process for a Betta?  <Mm, essentially, yes. As fish (any fish, not just Betta's) get quite old, their immune systems weaken, and organs can start to have problems - just like in a cat or dog or person. It is not at all uncommon to see symptoms like you describe in an old fish. At this point, pride yourself in having done a wonderful job in caring for Sushi, and continue to care for him as you have. He may yet have several months to play with.> After reading some of your information, I feel I should have been doing more for him over the years. I was not aware of nitrates or feeding anything other than the pellets.  <Again, there are things I would have done differently (more varied diet, different water, etc.), but it is quite obvious that you have done an excellent job with this fish. Again, I urge you not to change your habits at this point, just rest assured that you have done very well by your fishy friend.> Any information or suggestions you have would really be appreciated!! <If you want to do something a little extra for his diet, just to "perk him up" a bit, you could offer him a couple frozen or freeze-dried bloodworms from time to time (can get these at most fish stores), or even collect a couple small live mosquito larvae for him from a clean container (can just set a wide, low bucket on your back porch for a few days, in a place where no herbicides or insecticides can get in from your or your neighbors' gardens). Remember to feed less of his other food if you do this. You could offer him these "treats" a couple times a week, perhaps. There is a possibility that his buoyancy issue is related to an internal bacterial infection, but I urge strongly against trying to medicate such a condition, especially in such an old fish. Medicating at this point would cause more harm than good, I fear. And again, Cheryl, you have obviously given this fish fantastic care - don't change anything that you're doing for his maintenance. Just keep doing as you have been, and a great big "Kudos!" to you for your success with this fish!> Thank you for your time and consideration! <Any time.> Sincerely, Cheryl <My best wishes for you and Sushi, -Sabrina>

SICK BETTA??? Hello, I searched your site and I cant seem to find out what is wrong with our Betta.  We have a Betta at work in a lily vase.  I just recently found out that the plant could kill him but he has had the plant in the vase with him for almost 5 years.   <The plant usually used in these vases (Spathophyllums sp.), "peace lilies", can actually be grown submerged in aquariums, for quite a long time - I really don't think the plant is harmful to the Betta, it's the misconception that the Betta will feed on the roots of the plant and never have to be fed that ultimately kills the fish through starvation in these vase setups.  As long as the water is regularly changed, the Betta is properly fed, there's enough space at the top of the vase for the Betta to breathe, and the vase is large enough to be a comfy, happy home, I have no complaint with these setups.> We keep the roots clean and water changed regularly. Although, we have had some problems lately keeping the temperature in the office regulated. <Unless the fluctuations have been quite significant, I doubt that's a major problem.> He doesn't look sick but usually he has a healthy appetite and now he will barely eat. He will eat about one pellet and then spit the next one out. Most of the time he is usually laying on the rocks on the bottom of the vase.  His is red but under his face he has a grayish, silver color (We just thought that came with his old age) but he has had that for a while.  And lately it seems his gills has been sticking out on each side of his head. He looks like he has ears. I cant figure out if something is wrong with him or not. Are any of these symptoms a sign of sickness or just old age? <Well, you said this Betta is five years old - I must say, that's an *excellent* track record for a Betta; it sounds to me like you've been taking outstanding care of him, and that he's had a good, long life.  I doubt that he has any health issues that can be treated; the most you can do is try to keep him at a comfy temperature, keep his water clean, and try different foods to keep him interested in eating.  Try freeze-dried bloodworms, and if that doesn't work, try frozen bloodworms.  Wishing you well,  -Sabrina.> Please Advise Back, Sandra Taylor

Betta Help Dear Bob , I have a 29 gallon tank and a number of question <Anthony Calfo in your service> My Betta has been sick with velvet for the last two weeks . when he first showed symptoms I put him into a hospital tank.  <should have stayed for 2-4 weeks (last five to seven days should have been symptom free)> Yesterday he was well and I decided to put him back into the 29gall tank to be with his friends, livebearers, Corys, Otocinclus. This morning he would not eat any Betta min, (his favorite) and just moped all day on the bottom. This is very unusual for this Betta and I want to know what is wrong. He is currently 15months right now.  <ahhhh..... old age. Seriously. Considered by many to be an annual fish. Few if any bettas live longer than 2 years> I tried to feed him supper but he would not eat again. How long can he stay without food? He was fine until I let him out of the hospital tank , may be he does not like the movement and aerator? should I move him back to the hospital tank? Or breeding net? Or should I let him be? <if not old age, the hospital tank would best> Is it okay to feed my other fish Betta min?  <absolutely> They seem to enjoy it very much. Can Tubifex worms (Wardley's, bought from Wal-Mart, dried) cause ick?  <nope> I seem to have noticed that whenever I feed Tubifex worms my fish have ick. If this is not the cause, what is it? <a coincident factor...often temperature fluctuations> Last month on of my Corys started shimming shaking tired and ill.  <often a lack of electrolytes... try a little salt in the water (1 Tablespoon per ten gallons)> After putting him into the hospital, he got worse I tried putting salt in the water 1tsp per gall as a progressive salt treatment. He then seemed better but after three days he died. Before he died he would float for hours on the surface of the water trying to gasp for breath. His chest was bright red, and his back wavy. Now my other Cory is having the same symptoms to( shimming shaking tired and ill) What is this strange disease? <not sure, the salt was a good move, but this sounds like it needs meds... bacterial or viral. Antibiotics would be in order> My last question is this. One of my male platys whom I have raised from babyhood is bulling the other fish. biting the Betta, ramming into the Otocinclus and terrorizing the others. Is this bad for the other fish? Should I separate him? <yes...the aggression is quite stressful and contribute to disease. Do remove this fish> Thanks a lot. Sincerely Alyssa <always welcome, Anthony>

Old Betta? Hi, I have had my male freshwater Betta for about 1 1/2 years now (his name is Leon), <Unfortunately, it is common for bettas to live only a couple of years, and we often get them already at several months of age.  Basically, Leon's an old fart.  I mean that in the most respectful-to-elders sort of way!> He has always been very active and had a healthy appetite.  He is in a 3 gal tank by himself with a filtration system and gets conditioned spring water every water change which is always a 100% change.   <It's definitely a better idea to do smaller water changes more often....  Less possibility of shocking him with different temperature, pH> I feed him once a day with Betta bits except on Saturdays (because he lives at work).  When I left work for the weekend he was acting like himself then when I got back, he was settled on the bottom of the tank and pale and seemed to not have the strength to fly around the tank like he normally does.  I immediately did a 100% water change and gave him some food, he did eat though he struggled to get to the top of the tank.  He has no spots or cuts or abrasions or a swollen belly, he looks completely normal except for the paleness.  The only thing that was different was when I cleaned his tank there was some brown  cottony looking clumps underneath the gravel, <Likely decaying food material, other organic goop - could mean water parameters are outta whack - do you test for ammonia, pH, nitrite, nitrate?  If so, what are the values?  If not, you could swing by a fish store with a water sample, and they'll probably test it for you.  I'd recommend changing just a gallon or less every week, maybe on Mondays when you get back to work and are looking for excuses not to be doing something work-related ;)  Vacuuming the gravel in such a small tank would be difficult, but do-able, and might be done on a monthly basis (or slightly more frequently) to prevent buildups of organic material.> could he have an infection or is he just dying of old age?   <Well, he is an oldie, but I'm betting water parameters were a bit off and spurred his condition.  He should likely improve after having done the water change, unless temperature was way off during the water change - that'd have given him more problems to deal with.  It could also be that he's simply 'bored'.  Our bettas always get sluggish every few months, and perk up again after a major change in decor.  Perhaps get him a new plant or two, or something like that, see if his mood improves.> What course of action should I take to care for him?  Thanks for your help, Kim <Good luck to you and Leon.  -Sabrina>

Old Betta? -continued- Thanks for your help Sabrina, After I e-mailed you I checked his H2O values, they were all in the Ideal or safe range, <Ah.  By this I'm starting to think you're using the test 'strips'?  These have a tendency to be quite inaccurate, at times.  I strongly recommend a liquid reagent type test kit.  Just so you have a starting point, ammonia and nitrite should never be above zero.  Nitrate is acceptable up to 20ppm or so, but should be kept as close to zero as possible.  Also, even though the water tests well now, it could very well be the water you changed out was out of kilter (I'm still suspecting nitrates too high, from your mention of brown fuzzy globs in the substrate).> I gave him some super oxygenated water that I made at work to see if that would do anything he perked up a little for a few minutes.   <Super oxygenated how?  Hydrogen peroxide?  Or just aerated water?  Bettas are Anabantoids (air breathers), so there's not much to fear from lack of oxygenation.  I don't think it's at all necessary to resort to hydrogen peroxide to get oxygen into the water for an Anabantoid.> I also put some BettaMax in his water, I guess I just want to make sure I do everything I can before I can come to peace with him just being old especially since the Betta I have at home I have had forever. He is still alive today but still looks the same, he seems to be a little stronger when he swims, but his dorsal fin is starting to look ratty and he isn't eating much if anything. I just feel bad for the poor little guy. Thank you again for your help, much appreciated. Kim    <If you're starting to see fin damage, there might be something bacterial going on.  It might be worthwhile to try treating with a quality antibacterial med, possibly Kanamycin sulfate, Nitrofurazone, something along those lines.>

Old Betta? -continued (again)- I will try the liquid reagent test.   <Good deal.  There are many accurate brands available - and easy to use.> I just aerated pure O2 into the water not peroxide.  We'll see what happens, thanks for all your help. <I do very much hope he'll pull through okay.  Tell Leon I'm rootin' for him!  -Sabrina>

New Print and eBook on Amazon

Betta Success
Doing what it takes to keep Bettas healthy long-term

by Robert (Bob) Fenner

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